Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Huge, Amazing, Life-Altering, Wonderful, Sparkly, and Beautiful Life Changes

Greetings Paper Canteen Friends!!

I've missed you all so very much!!  I keep updated on you all from a far for sure.  I come and visit your blogs, and read and become inspired always.  I've been out of the "bloggy" crafty loop myself for quite some time but am looking very forward to getting back into it in a way that works for me and where I'm at in my life right now.  I miss commenting on your postings and reading all of your lovely comments on mine.  I'm greatly looking forward to getting back into the crafty blogosphere (is that a word!?) and reconnecting with you all.

So I figured I'd update you on what's happening in my tiny corner of the world!  So, if you're interested, grab a cup of whatever you like, have a sit down with me and snuggle up!  ;)

There are so many decisions in to be made in life.  Some are tiny, every day decisions like what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, and which line to stand in at the grocery store.  Some are medium size - where to go for a family trip, what to do for your children's birthday, and what car to buy.  And some are huge and life altering decisions - getting a pet, getting married, buying a house, and having children.  The last two years (2012-2014) have fallen into the last category for my family.  In 2012 I got pregnant - not intentionally but not NOT intentionally either.  At the time we had a 7.5 year old and a 6 year old.  So we'd been flying in the "life is easy" zone as far as the independence of our children was concerned.  No baby gates, no worries about choking hazards, childproofing was a thing of the past.  Everyone could use the bathroom, shower, brush their teeth, help around the house, get dressed and make their beds.  Going out anywhere was easy - day trips, overnights, movie outings, shopping excursions, meals out.  I had successfully graduated from diaper bag back to my own grown up purse and we all had at least 9-10 hours of consecutive sleep every night.  It was just the four of us for a very long time.  That all changed in March of 2013 when I gave birth to our third child, an uber deliciously fabulous baby boy named Ari Tucker Winston.  We were now "Winston Family - Party of 5".  Kendall was 8.5 and Tyler turned 7 just three days before Ari was born.  They were excited beyond belief to have a baby in the house.  We made it through a third c-section, through 10 months of breast feeding, through a few months of broken sleep, through the adjustment of losing the freedom we'd grown accustomed to for so long.
(park day!)
Fast forward to today.  Ari is 17 months old.  He is amazing.  He sleeps, eats and plays like a champ.  As controversial as some find it, I sleep trained him at 4 months and he's slept through the night ever since.  It worked for us...not for all but for our family it worked. (read: I'm not recommending it to anyone...just giving my opinion of what worked for us.)  He naps solidly at least once a day but most days twice.  He's funny, witty, goofy, snuggly and so yummy.  I've adored watching my older children envelop him into our family fold as if he's always been here.  They help, love and watch over him.  It's simply made me realize even more how infinitely important this job is that we're doing. Raising these children to be good children, later in life to be good partners, good parents, good people.
(all of us on the steps of the Boston Public Library - talk about apropos! the littlest is on me in the backpack - just couldn't catch him in the photo)

This past June, Kendall and Tyler successfully finished third and first grade respectively.  It was then that we sent our letter of intent to our town withdrawing them from public school.  We sent in our education plan for both children and received our letter back from the town giving us our official status as a homeschooling family.  This is a HUGE decision.  HUGE, HUGE, HUGE.  Regardless of the enormity of it, besides marrying my husband and having children it's a decision I've never felt more confident about.
(a rarely posted selfie of me and all three babies en route to Boston- I even caught the littlest who rode on my back all day!)
That being said, for us - it is a huge, life altering, amazingly wonderfully, sparkly and exciting decision.  I've been pondering homeschooling since before my oldest was in Kindergarten.  It just wasn't my time - or theirs.  But the time is right, right now.  There was nothing at all technically wrong with the public school in our town.  But as my oldest went through her third grade year last year, I very slowly and very clearly watched the bright light in her eyes fade as the year went on.  She was always excited about school, always ready to learn, always excited about the challenges she would face.  But the year started to wear on her.  As our state and their school started gearing up for the MCAS test I saw a shift in the workload and the type of work that she was doing and the type of work that was being sent home.  I'll stop here and say that I'm not averse to any of my children working hard.  I believe that with hard work and persevernece that they can do anything they set their minds to.  Truly.  What I do not believe in the MCAS test.  Nor do I believe that it's an accurate way to teach or test.  I think that since the push of this and other standardized tests in our schools the teachers have lost their freedom to be creative.  One might argue that the teachers have to find a NEW way to be creative to teach what they need to teach in a different manner surrounding the MCAS.  I disagree.  I think the teachers who got into teaching for the love of teaching and the love of creativity suffer and I think that the students definitely suffer as a result of having to hammer facts, memorize and drill over and over simply to achieve high scores for their school.  Don't get me wrong, I do feel that some memorization of some things is necessary.  But - not to prove anything to the town, state or federal government.  For example, I do feel that kids need to memorize their multiplication tables as it makes math easier as they get older.  But, I believe that children do this at different ages and at different paces and I feel that the MCAS pushes kids who may not entirely be ready to master this particular skill perhaps earlier than they could or should.  I noticed that my son - who was in 1st grade bringing home worksheet upon worksheet upon worksheet (ad nauseum).  Some of the worksheets were identical to ones my daughter brought home when she was in the second grade.  That made me wonder a bit.  Again, not that I don't think he's competent enough to handle the work, it's just another example of how bit by bit the fun, creative and engaging parts of elementary school are being systematically plucked out of our children's lives.  They are being driven - driven to succeed, driven to be ahead, driven to be competitive,driven to perform and driven to perfection.  They are not being driven to individuality nor to creativity.  That's to be done in all of the other hours of the day - extra circularly.  There had to be a better solution - for my children.
(hangin with some homeschool buddies at the park learning how to catch snakes)
(who doesn't love a tray full of foam paint!?)

The amount of outdoor time that both of my children had was pitiful.  They had approximately 20 minutes of recess and that included the amount of time it took to line all 22 children up to head out and then back in.  So the REAL amount of time spent outdoors was more like 15 minutes.  Both children usually came home with at least half of their lunchbox still full because they didn't have enough time to finish their lunch.  We have taught our children to eat slowly both to enjoy your food but and to aid in good digestion (as well as good manners).  Giving the children such small amounts of time to rest, recharge, eat and socialize is not enough. The reason they have such small amounts of time is that they are cramming the rest of the day with academics and one "special" (art, music, gym, etc) a day.  When my children came home, they were literally exhausted. I completely expected this when my daughter, my oldest, started full day Kindergarten.  I figured it would last a few weeks maybe a couple of months at most.  Nope.  It lasted every single school day of every single year. My son who is 2 school years behind her was exactly the same way.  This exhaustion made any after school activities (horseback riding, dance class, art class, skating lessons, etc) almost an argument between us.  Things that should be enjoyable shouldn't be a struggle - but they were because of the intense exhaustion my children felt after the school day.  It was not working for us...year after year.  I want my children to truly enjoy learning, to embrace the challenges that come to them with open arms and open minds.  I do not want their learning to be hindered because they are exhausted or overwhelmed.  I do not want them to learn simply because they are being driven to exceed the town/governments test scores.  I want them to learn to better themselves, to do something great for themselves and society and to help others do great things for themselves and society.

(handwriting practice)
(The Lemonade War word search)

I want my children to be able to have the time to learn all of the basics - the core subjects, but I also want them to be able to delve deep into subjects that interest them.  To be able to spend large amounts of time studying aviation and garbage trucks (my 8 year old son), fairies, writing books, how stickers are made, and how to make crayons (my 9 year old daughter); these are things that will truly engage and interest them and will allow me to pull in a variety of subjects while teaching them by using things they love.

We are finding our way within our local homeschooling community which has opened its arms to us and welcomed us in.  It is taking shape and form very slowly but we are all meeting friends and finding times to get together and socialize.  I'm trying to resist jumping into 1000 things at once and trying to enjoy each day as it organically forms.  One foot in front of the other is how we're rolling at this point.  And it's amazing.

For me, I'm finding that not only does homeschooling make me more organized, it makes me a more aware parent.  I am not only watching my children learn but I'm learning HOW they learn and how I can help facilitate that learning process.  Right now I have a picture of what it's "supposed" to look like in my head but I know that will shift and change as the days go on and we'll find the groove that works for us.  Selfishly I breathe a little deeper with my babies around me, I find that I am more present when they are around and honestly - I don't want to miss everything that they do during these formative years.
(performing a "walking water" science experiment)
I am more excited about this than anything else I've ever done.  I'd be lying if I said that there isn't a small percentage of me that's petrified but I hear that's normal and will pass as I watch my kids blossom and flourish.  I know there will be amazing days, terrible days and all kinds of days in between.  The amazing thing is that I'm going to be there with them through all of them.  And honestly...i.can't.wait.

So folks, that's the big goings on around here!  I will definitely be finding places to join in with a few crafty challenges here and there as time allows as I miss that piece of my life very much.  I miss connecting with you all and sharing in the crafty inspiration that is abound! 
(a rockstar that my son drew last night)
(a beautiful walk in the pouring rain)

I look so forward to sharing this journey with anyone who is interested.  I will be posting about all things crafty and homeschool"ey" (yes - I just made that up ;) - sometimes together, sometimes separate.  I'll try to make my post titles obvious in nature as to what the subject matter is in case you'd rather skip my rambling diatribes.  (wink!)  I promise not to be offended!  It's really mostly for my own record/memory keeping than for anything else.  But I'm always more than happy to share.
(straight up goof balls)
(I mean, really!? He's crazy delicious)

I'll definitely be seeing you all around!

OH and these pics are for all of my crafty friends!!  While in the city we went to Dick Blick Art Supply!  Talk about heaven!  ;)
(yes please, I'll take 1 of each!!)
(my more realistic crafty haul! not pictured - what my children got! ha!)

With Big Crafty Hugs!